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Scientists warn that whales cannot save us from climate change

Scientists warn that whales cannot save us from climate change

Whales are often seen as the heroes of the climate crisis, as they can store large amounts of carbon in their bodies and help fertilize the ocean with their feces. However, a new study has found that the potential carbon capture by whales is too small to make a significant difference in mitigating global warming.

The study, published in Current Biology, estimated that whales sequester about 0.1 gigatons of carbon per year, which is equivalent to 0.3% of current annual human emissions. The researchers also found that whale feces stimulate phytoplankton growth, which can remove another 0.05 gigatons of carbon per year from the atmosphere.

While these numbers may seem impressive, they are dwarfed by the amount of carbon that humans release into the air every year, which is about 36 gigatons. The study also pointed out that whale populations have been severely reduced by whaling and other human activities, and that restoring them to pre-exploitation levels would only increase their carbon capture by 10%.

The authors of the study cautioned that their findings do not mean that whales are unimportant for the ocean ecosystem or for climate action. They argued that whales have many other benefits, such as enhancing biodiversity, supporting fisheries, and providing cultural and economic value. They also stressed that protecting whales from threats such as entanglement, ship strikes, noise pollution, and climate change is essential for their survival and well-being.

However, they emphasized that relying on whales to solve the climate crisis is unrealistic and risky. They urged policymakers and the public to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing natural carbon sinks on land and in the sea.

"Whales are wonderful animals that inspire awe and wonder in us," said Lyne Morissette, a marine ecologist and co-author of the study. "But they are not magical creatures that can reverse climate change on their own. We need to stop burning fossil fuels and start restoring nature if we want to have a livable planet."

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